Making sense of Google analytics for bloggers

18 thoughts on “Making sense of Google analytics for bloggers”

  1. Random Q, since you seem to know about this stuff. We use WP.com, premium level, which has a pretty decent set of analytics built in, but certainly not GA level. WP says we have to upgrade to business for another $200 (no thanks!) to get GA tied in. Do you know if there’s a way around that? We have the GA code to embed, but WP doesn’t give access to backend the way Blogger does, so I can’t embed the code in every page automatically — I’d have to do it manually on every single post. Again, no thanks! Google has been no help, but you’re a whiz a this stuff, so seemed worth asking. 🙂

    1. Don’t you have ways to edit your template in the css editor from WordPress? you should be able to embed your GA code directly in there, in the header file, which is loaded for every page.
      There’s no way you’d need to pay $200 for such a simple change. Alternatively you should be able to find a free plugin that would do it for you.

      And if you do need to pay $200, instead invest in actual hosting that will give you full control of your site.

    2. They tell you that you gotta upgrade (aka: pay them) in order to use something as simple and *FREE* as Google Analytics? If that’s true, I’d move the heck away from WP.com in a heartbeat.

      Can you install custom plugins with WP.com? Meaning, from your plugins page, click the ‘Add New’ button at the top, and search for a Google Analytics plugin. If you can’t do that, then I’d say you don’t have very much control over your web environment (like StockBeard alluded to). If you can, then you might be able to enable the capability that way. I don’t believe that you have access to your theme’s source files on WP.com, so going the plugin route is really the only way to make this work.

      Let me know how it goes. I’m curious.

      1. Thanks, guys. I just did another big Google search on the topic, and it does seem that I’m stuck. I’m $100 into WP.com premium on the year (this gives some extra features, but not full CSS control or the ability to add plug-ins). I’ll start looking into self-hosting later in the year so I can switch over before I have to give WP another penny!

        1. Yup, I just read this page:

          https://en.support.wordpress.com/google-analytics/

          Looks like if you want to take advantage of the freely available Google Analytics capability, you gotta fork over an additional $200/year for the Business Plan, which is complete bullshit and disappoints me, quite frankly, that WordPress makes its customers do that. Even if there is another “back door” way to enable Google Analytics that I’m not aware of, customers shouldn’t need to jump through hoops to find it. GA is free. WordPress should offer it as such.

          Good call on self hosting. There are a TON of good web hosting providers out there that make self-hosting WordPress a snap (Bluehost, Dreamhost, 1and1.com are just a few). They are “shared” hosting providers, which means you are sharing resources with others on the same server, but that *usually* isn’t much of a problem.

          Let me know if you’d like any help when the time comes to move your site.

  2. One thing to note is that different people behave differently for different reasons. I don’t like signing up for email subscriptions, so I check my favorite blogs daily to see if they have an update. If there’s no new post on a given day on the site I’ll immediately close it, which would be counted as a bounceback. That means bouncebacks might just be people are hungry for content!

    Or I might open up the blog, get distracted by the actual work I should be doing, and the page will be open for hours without me reading anything. So, as you noted, the average session duration could be misleading too. Basically, statistics can say lots of different things, so don’t get disheartened if they don’t look the way you want.

    1. That is an excellent point, Ian. Statistics can be very, very deceiving. I’ve left blog posts up in one of my browser tabs for hours before and still routinely do so if I get distracted. It happens. These numbers very much do need to be taken with a grain of salt.

  3. This is a really good overview. As someone who has blogged for 8+ years, I try my hardest NOT to look at my stats all that often. Maybe once every couple months. It’s easy to get distracted by them when you could be working on value-added activities (like writing content!).

    1. It’s kinda like looking at your net worth number – most don’t like the daily updates, and I think that’s a perfectly reasonable way to approach this stuff. Focus on writing excellent blog content and the hits will surely follow! 🙂

  4. Is it just me, or do others get a little uncomfortable with they start typing Google anal… into the address bar? I’ve added the site to the bookmark bar in Chrome to avoid the embarrassment.

    Thanks for the writeup. GA seems to have a lot of statistics that could be useful. I like looking at where my referrals are coming from, and looking at the real time map of users around the country and world. It was especially fun when Rockstar Finance showed me some love and I saw twenty people at a time. I’ll bet that 6,000 pageview day I see in yours was pretty wild!

    Google Search Console also has some good info. You can look at the keywords that link to your site, how far down the screen(s) your site’s pages will be for each keyword, and how many clicks to your site resulted from those keyword searches.

    Harnessing all the data in a way that helps you get your message out to readers is another art altogether, and one that I haven’t done a whole lot with yet.

    Thanks for the excellent write-up.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    1. Ha! Yeah, “Google Anal” would be an interesting search term indeed! Not sure I’d want to discover the results for that particular search query!

      Agreed on the referrals. I am always interested in who is linking in my direction so I can either return the favor or thank them for the support. Always nice to get links from around the web. And there’s a LOT of data out there when it comes to web site analytics. Referrals are a lot of the time the most interesting stats to dive through.

      Thanks for reading, Doc! 🙂

      1. Anytime, Steve. Glad to make your acquaintance. Looks like the countdown is on for you. The Airstream secured, the house to be sold, the adventure to begin!

        I guess your 10-year plan was truncated to 3. I keep telling myself I’m on a 5+ year plan. Time will tell.

        1. Yeah, we just kept shrinking our time frame further and further down until we just couldn’t physically cut any more out. For me, I’m working a job that I do not particularly enjoy, so that is making it tougher to hang in there any longer than I have to. 🙂

Leave a Reply